Their new friend said no more just then, being busily employed in cutting a quid or plug from his cake of tobacco, and whistling softly to himself the while. When he had shaped it to his liking, he took out his old plug, and deposited the same on the back of the seat between Mark and Martin, while he thrust the new one into the hollow of his cheek, where it looked like a large walnut, or tolerable pippin. Finding it quite satisfactory, he stuck the point of his knife into the old plug, and holding it out for their inspection, remarked with the air of a man who had not lived in vain, that it was 'used up considerable.' Then he tossed it away; put his knife into one pocket and his tobacco into another; rested his chin upon the rail as before; and approving of the pattern on Martin's waistcoat, reached out his hand to feel the texture of that garment.
'What do you call this now?' he asked.
'Upon my word' said Martin, 'I don't know what it's called.'
'It'll cost a dollar or more a yard, I reckon?'
'I really don't know.'
'In my country,' said the gentleman, 'we know the cost of our own pro-duce.'
Martin not discussing the question, there was a pause.
'Well!' resumed their new friend, after staring at them intently during the whole interval of silence; 'how's the unnat'ral old parent by this time?'
Mr Tapley regarding this inquiry as only another version of the impertinent English question, 'How's your mother?' would have resented it instantly, but for Martin's prompt interposition.
'You mean the old country?' he said.
'Ah!' was the reply. 'How's she? Progressing back'ards, I expect, as usual? Well! How's Queen Victoria?'
'In good health, I believe,' said Martin.
'Queen Victoria won't shake in her royal shoes at all, when she hears to-morrow named,' observed the stranger, 'No.'
'Not that I am aware of. Why should she?'
'She won't be taken with a cold chill, when she realises what is being done in these diggings,' said the stranger. 'No.'
'No,' said Martin. 'I think I could take my oath of that.'
The strange gentleman looked at him as if in pity for his ignorance or prejudice, and said:
'Well, sir, I tell you this--there ain't a engine with its biler bust, in God A'mighty's free U-nited States, so fixed, and nipped, and frizzled to a most e-tarnal smash, as that young critter, in her luxurious location in the Tower of London will be, when she reads the next double-extra Watertoast Gazette.'
Several other gentlemen had left their seats and gathered round during the foregoing dialogue. They were highly delighted with this speech. One very lank gentleman, in a loose limp white cravat, long white waistcoat, and a black great-coat, who seemed to be in authority among them, felt called upon to acknowledge it.
'Hem! Mr La Fayette Kettle,' he said, taking off his hat.
There was a grave murmur of 'Hush!'
'Mr La Fayette Kettle! Sir!'
Mr Kettle bowed.
'In the name of this company, sir, and in the name of our common country, and in the name of that righteous cause of holy sympathy in which we are engaged, I thank you. I thank you, sir, in the name of the Watertoast Sympathisers; and I thank you, sir, in the name of the Watertoast Gazette; and I thank you, sir, in the name of the star-spangled banner of the Great United States, for your eloquent and categorical exposition. And if, sir,' said the speaker, poking Martin with the handle of his umbrella to bespeak his attention, for he was listening to a whisper from Mark; 'if, sir, in such a place, and at such a time, I might venture to con-clude with a sentiment, glancing--however slantin'dicularly--at the subject in hand, I would say, sir, may the British Lion have his talons eradicated by the noble bill of the American Eagle, and be taught to play upon the Irish Harp and the Scotch Fiddle that music which is breathed in every empty shell that lies upon the shores of green Co-lumbia!'
Here the lank gentleman sat down again, amidst a great sensation; and every one looked very grave.