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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. '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!'
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Martin Chuzzlewit -- by Charles Dickens