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[218]

Chapter 33: the test of talk

We are all unconsciously testing ourselves, all the time, for the information of those around us, and one of the most familiar tests is that of talk. Emerson says that every man reveals himself at every moment; it is he himself, and nobody else, who assigns his position.
Each the herald is who wrote
His rank and quartered his own coat.

After spending an hour in the dark with a stranger, we can classify him pretty surely as to education, antecedents, and the like, unless he has had the wit to hold his tongue. In that case he is inscrutable. In Coleridge's well-known anecdote the stranger at the dinner-table would forever have remained a dignified and commanding figure, had not the excellence of the apple-dumplings called him for a moment forth from his shell to utter the fatal words,

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