'General Choke,' said Mr La Fayette Kettle, 'you warm my heart; sir, you warm my heart. But the British Lion is not unrepresented here, sir; and I should be glad to hear his answer to those remarks.'
'Upon my word,' cried Martin, laughing, 'since you do me the honour to consider me his representative, I have only to say that I never heard of Queen Victoria reading the What's-his-name Gazette and that I should scarcely think it probable.'
General Choke smiled upon the rest, and said, in patient and benignant explanation:
'It is sent to her, sir. It is sent to her. Her mail.'
'But if it is addressed to the Tower of London, it would hardly come to hand, I fear,' returned Martin; 'for she don't live there.'
'The Queen of England, gentlemen,' observed Mr Tapley, affecting the greatest politeness, and regarding them with an immovable face, 'usually lives in the Mint to take care of the money. She HAS lodgings, in virtue of her office, with the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House; but don't often occupy them, in consequence of the parlour chimney smoking.'
'Mark,' said Martin, 'I shall be very much obliged to you if you'll have the goodness not to interfere with preposterous statements, however jocose they may appear to you. I was merely remarking gentlemen--though it's a point of very little import--that the Queen of England does not happen to live in the Tower of London.'
'General!' cried Mr La Fayette Kettle. 'You hear?'
'General!' echoed several others. 'General!'
'Hush! Pray, silence!' said General Choke, holding up his hand, and speaking with a patient and complacent benevolence that was quite touching. 'I have always remarked it as a very extraordinary circumstance, which I impute to the natur' of British Institutions and their tendency to suppress that popular inquiry and information which air so widely diffused even in the trackless forests of this vast Continent of the Western Ocean; that the knowledge of Britishers themselves on such points is not to be compared with that possessed by our intelligent and locomotive citizens. This is interesting, and confirms my observation. When you say, sir,' he continued, addressing Martin, 'that your Queen does not reside in the Tower of London, you fall into an error, not uncommon to your countrymen, even when their abilities and moral elements air such as to command respect. But, sir, you air wrong. She DOES live there--'
'When she is at the Court of Saint James's,' interposed Kettle.
'When she is at the Court of Saint James's, of course,' returned the General, in the same benignant way; 'for if her location was in Windsor Pavilion it couldn't be in London at the same time. Your Tower of London, sir,' pursued the General, smiling with a mild consciousness of his knowledge, 'is nat'rally your royal residence. Being located in the immediate neighbourhood of your Parks, your Drives, your Triumphant Arches, your Opera, and your Royal Almacks, it nat'rally suggests itself as the place for holding a luxurious and thoughtless court. And, consequently,' said the General, 'consequently, the court is held there.'
'Have you been in England?' asked Martin.
'In print I have, sir,' said the General, 'not otherwise. We air a reading people here, sir. You will meet with much information among us that will surprise you, sir.'
'I have not the least doubt of it,' returned Martin. But here he was interrupted by Mr La Fayette Kettle, who whispered in his ear:
'You know General Choke?'
'No,' returned Martin, in the same tone.
'You know what he is considered?'
'One of the most remarkable men in the country?' said Martin, at a venture.
'That's a fact,' rejoined Kettle. 'I was sure you must have heard of him!'
'I think,' said Martin, addressing himself to the General again, 'that I have the pleasure of being the bearer of a letter of introduction to you, sir. From Mr Bevan, of Massachusetts,' he added, giving it to him.
The General took it and read it attentively; now and then stopping to glance at the two strangers.