Abbot. Strongly put, though correctly. For the self-interest of each it is which produces in the aggregate the happy equilibrium of all.
C. Wal. Well—the world is right well made, that’s certain; and He who made the Jews’ sin our salvation may bring plenty out of famine, and comfort out of covetousness. But look you, Sirs, private selfishness may be public weal, and yet private selfishness be just as surely damned, for all that.
3d Count. I hold, Sir, that every alms is a fresh badge of slavery.
C. Wal. I don’t deny it.
3d Count. Then teach them independence.
C. Wal. How? By tempting them to turn thieves, when begging fails? By keeping their stomachs just at desperation-point? By starving them out here, to march off, starving all the way, to some town, in search of employment, of which, if they find it, they know no more than my horse? Likely! No, Sir, to make men of them, put them not out of the reach, but out of the need, of charity.
3d Count. And how, prithee? By teaching them, like our fair Landgravine, to open their mouth for all that drops? Thuringia is become a kennel of beggars in her hands.
C. Wal. In hers? In ours, Sir!
Abbot. Idleness, Sir, deceit, and immorality, are the three children of this same barbarous self-indulgence in almsgiving. Leave the poor alone. Let want teach them the need of self-exertion, and misery prove the foolishness of crime.
C. Wal. How? Teach them to become men by leaving them brutes?
Abbot. Oh, Sir, there we step in, with the consolations and instructions of the faith.
C. Wal. Ay, but while the grass is growing the steed is starving; and in the meantime, how will the callow chick Grace stand against the tough old game-cock Hunger?
3d Count. Then how, in the name of patience, would you have us alter things?
C. Wal. We cannot alter them, Sir—but they will be altered, never fear.
Omnes. How? How?
C. Wal. Do you see this hour-glass?—Here’s the state: This air stands for the idlers;—this sand for the workers. When all the sand has run to the bottom, God in heaven just turns the hour-glass, and then—
C. Hugo. The world’s upside down.
C. Wal. And the Lord have mercy upon us!
Omnes. On us? Do you call us the idlers?
C. Wal. Some dare to do so—But fear not—In the fulness of time, all that’s lightest is sure to come to the top again.
C. Hugo. But what rascal calls us idlers?
Omnes. Name, name.
C. Wal. Why, if you ask me—I heard a shrewd sermon the other day on that same idleness and immorality text of the Abbot’s.—’Twas Conrad, the Princess’s director, preached it. And a fashionable cap it is, though it will fit more than will like to wear it. Shall I give it you? Shall I preach?