Chapter 17Martin 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. But, being now in the streets again, it occurred to him as just coming within the bare limits of possibility that Mr. Tapley might, in course of time, grow tired of waiting on the threshold of the Rowdy Journal Office, so he intimated to his new friend, that if they could conveniently walk in that direction, he would be glad to get this piece of business off his mind.
`And speaking of business,' said Martin, `may I ask, in order that I may not be behind-hand with questions either, whether your occupation holds you to this city, or like myself, you are a visitor here?'
`A visitor,' replied his friend. `I was "raised" in the State of Massachusetts, and reside there still. My home is in a quiet country town. I am not often in these busy places; and my inclination to visit them does not increase with our better acquaintance, I assure you.'
`You have been abroad?' asked Martin,
`And, like most people who travel, have become more than ever attached to your home and native country,' said Martin, eyeing him curiously.
`To my home, yes,' rejoined his friend. `To my native country as my home--yes, also.'
`You imply some reservation,' said Martin.
`Well,' returned his new friend, `if you ask me whether I came back here with a greater relish for my country's faults; with a greater fondness for those who claim (at the rate of so many dollars a day) to be her friends; with a cooler indifference to the growth of principles among us in respect of public matters and of private dealings between man and man, the advocacy of which, beyond the foul atmosphere of a criminal trial, would disgrace your own old Bailey lawyers; why, then I answer plainly, No.'
`Oh!' said Martin; in so exactly the same key as his friend's No, that it sounded like an echo.
`If you ask me,' his companion pursued, `whether I came back here better satisfied with a state of things which broadly divides society into two classes--whereof one, the great mass, asserts a spurious independence, most miserably dependent for its mean existence on the disregard of humanising conventionalities of manner and social custom, so that the coarser a man is, the more distinctly it shall appeal to his taste; while the other, disgusted with the low standard thus set up and made adaptable to everything, takes refuge among the graces and refinements it can bring to bear on private life, and leaves the public weal to such fortune as may betide it in the press and uproar of a general scramble--then again I answer, No.'
And again Martin said `Oh!' in the same odd way as before, being anxious and disconcerted; not so much, to say the truth, on public grounds, as with reference to the fading prospects of domestic architecture.
`In a word,' resumed the other, `I do not find and cannot believe and therefore will not allow, that we are a model of wisdom, and an example to the world, and the perfection of human reason, and a great deal more to the same purpose, which you may hear any hour in the day; simply because we began our political life with two inestimable advantages.'
`What were they?' asked Martin.
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