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'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. When he had finished the note, he came over to Martin, sat down by him, and shook hands.
'Well!' he said, 'and you think of settling in Eden?'
'Subject to your opinion, and the agent's advice,' replied Martin. 'I am told there is nothing to be done in the old towns.'
'I can introduce you to the agent, sir,' said the General. 'I know him. In fact, I am a member of the Eden Land Corporation myself.'
This was serious news to Martin, for his friend had laid great stress upon the General's having no connection, as he thought, with any land company, and therefore being likely to give him disinterested advice. The General explained that he had joined the Corporation only a few weeks ago, and that no communication had passed between himself and Mr Bevan since.
'We have very little to venture,' said Martin anxiously--'only a few pounds--but it is our all. Now, do you think that for one of my profession, this would be a speculation with any hope or chance in it?'
'Well,' observed the General, gravely, 'if there wasn't any hope or chance in the speculation, it wouldn't have engaged my dollars, I opinionate.'
'I don't mean for the sellers,' said Martin. 'For the buyers--for the buyers!'
'For the buyers, sir?' observed the General, in a most impressive manner. 'Well! you come from an old country; from a country, sir, that has piled up golden calves as high as Babel, and worshipped 'em for ages. We are a new country, sir; man is in a more primeval state here, sir; we have not the excuse of having lapsed in the slow course of time into degenerate practices; we have no false gods; man, sir, here, is man in all his dignity. We fought for that or nothing. Here am I, sir,' said the General, setting up his umbrella to represent himself, and a villanous-looking umbrella it was; a very bad counter to stand for the sterling coin of his benevolence, 'here am I with grey hairs sir, and a moral sense. Would I, with my principles, invest capital in this speculation if I didn't think it full of hopes and chances for my brother man?'
Martin tried to look convinced, but he thought of New York, and found it difficult.
'What are the Great United States for, sir,' pursued the General 'if not for the regeneration of man? But it is nat'ral in you to make such an enquerry, for you come from England, and you do not know my country.'
'Then you think,' said Martin, 'that allowing for the hardships we are prepared to undergo, there is a reasonable--Heaven knows we don't expect much--a reasonable opening in this place?'
'A reasonable opening in Eden, sir! But see the agent, see the agent; see the maps and plans, sir; and conclude to go or stay, according to the natur' of the settlement. Eden hadn't need to go a-begging yet, sir,' remarked the General.
'It is an awful lovely place, sure-ly. And frightful wholesome, likewise!' said Mr Kettle, who had made himself a party to this conversation as a matter of course.
Martin felt that to dispute such testimony, for no better reason than because he had his secret misgivings on the subject, would be ungentlemanly and indecent. So he thanked the General for his promise to put him in personal communication with the agent; and 'concluded' to see that officer next morning. He then begged the General to inform him who the Watertoast Sympathisers were, of whom he had spoken in addressing Mr La Fayette Kettle, and on what grievances they bestowed their Sympathy. To which the General, looking very serious, made answer, that he might fully enlighten himself on those points to-morrow by attending a Great Meeting of the Body, which would then be held at the town to which they were travelling; 'over which, sir,' said the General, 'my fellow-citizens have called on me to preside.'
They came to their journey's end late in the evening. Close to the railway was an immense white edifice, like an ugly hospital, on which was painted 'NATIONAL HOTEL.' There was a wooden gallery or verandah in front, in which it was rather startling, when the train stopped, to behold a great many pairs of boots and shoes, and the smoke of a great many cigars, but no other evidences of human habitation. By slow degrees, however, some heads and shoulders appeared, and connecting themselves with the boots and shoes, led to the discovery that certain gentlemen boarders, who had a fancy for putting their heels where the gentlemen boarders in other countries usually put their heads, were enjoying themselves after their own manner in the cool of the evening.
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Martin Chuzzlewit -- by Charles Dickens