Though I must add that I am beholden to him for his civility in bringing me here--and arranging for my stay, on pretty reasonable terms, by the way,' he added, remembering that the colonel had whispered him to that effect, before going out.
'Not much beholden,' said the stranger drily. 'The colonel occasionally boards packet-ships, I have heard, to glean the latest information for his journal; and he occasionally brings strangers to board here, I believe, with a view to the little percentage which attaches to those good offices; and which the hostess deducts from his weekly bill. I don't offend you, I hope?' he added, seeing that Martin reddened.
'My dear sir,' returned Martin, as they shook hands, 'how is that possible! to tell you the truth, I--am--'
'Yes?' said the gentleman, sitting down beside him.
'I am rather at a loss, since I must speak plainly,' said Martin, getting the better of his hesitation, 'to know how this colonel escapes being beaten.'
'Well! He has been beaten once or twice,' remarked the gentleman quietly. 'He is one of a class of men, in whom our own Franklin, so long ago as ten years before the close of the last century, foresaw our danger and disgrace. Perhaps you don't know that Franklin, in very severe terms, published his opinion that those who were slandered by such fellows as this colonel, having no sufficient remedy in the administration of this country's laws or in the decent and right-minded feeling of its people, were justified in retorting on such public nuisances by means of a stout cudgel?'
'I was not aware of that,' said Martin, 'but I am very glad to know it, and I think it worthy of his memory; especially'--here he hesitated again.
'Go on,' said the other, smiling as if he knew what stuck in Martin's throat.
'Especially,' pursued Martin, 'as I can already understand that it may have required great courage, even in his time, to write freely on any question which was not a party one in this very free country.'
'Some courage, no doubt,' returned his new friend. 'Do you think it would require any to do so, now?'
'Indeed I think it would; and not a little,' said Martin.
'You are right. So very right, that I believe no satirist could breathe this air. If another Juvenal or Swift could rise up among us to-morrow, he would be hunted down. If you have any knowledge of our literature, and can give me the name of any man, American born and bred, who has anatomized our follies as a people, and not as this or that party; and who has escaped the foulest and most brutal slander, the most inveterate hatred and intolerant pursuit; it will be a strange name in my ears, believe me. In some cases I could name to you, where a native writer has ventured on the most harmless and good-humoured illustrations of our vices or defects, it has been found necessary to announce, that in a second edition the passage has been expunged, or altered, or explained away, or patched into praise.'
'And how has this been brought about?' asked Martin, in dismay.
'Think of what you have seen and heard to-day, beginning with the colonel,' said his friend, 'and ask yourself. How THEY came about, is another question. Heaven forbid that they should be samples of the intelligence and virtue of America, but they come uppermost, and in great numbers, and too often represent it. Will you walk?'
There was a cordial candour in his manner, and an engaging confidence that it would not be abused; a manly bearing on his own part, and a simple reliance on the manly faith of a stranger; which Martin had never seen before. He linked his arm readily in that of the American gentleman, and they walked out together.
It was perhaps to men like this, his new companion, that a traveller of honoured name, who trod those shores now nearly forty years ago, and woke upon that soil, as many have done since, to blots and stains upon its high pretensions, which in the brightness of his distant dreams were lost to view, appealed in these words--
'Oh, but for such, Columbia's days were done; Rank without ripeness, quickened without sun, Crude at the surface, rotten at the core, Her fruits would fall before her spring were o'er!'
MARTIN ENLARGES HIS CIRCLE OF AQUAINTANCE; INCREASES HIS STOCK OF WISDOM; AND HAS AN EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY OF COMPARING HIS OWN EXPERIENCES WITH THOSE OF LUMMY NED OF THE LIGHT SALISBURY, AS RELATED BY HIS FRIEND MR WILLIAM SIMMONS
It was characteristic of Martin, that all this while he had either forgotten Mark Tapley as completely as if there had been no such person in existence, or, if for a moment the figure of that gentleman rose before his mental vision, had dismissed it as something by no means of a pressing nature, which might be attended to by-and-bye, and could wait his perfect leisure.