Then the Parson and the Mistress fall to talking about the soup-relief, and about old Mrs. Grumples in Pig Alley, who had a present of one of Stowe’s Illustrated Self-Acting Bibles on Christmas, when she had n’t coal enough in the house to heat her gruel; and about a family behind the church, a widow and six little children and three dogs; and he did n’t believe that any of them had known what it was to be warm in three weeks, and as to food, the woman said, she could hardly beg cold victuals enough to keep the dogs alive.
The Mistress slipped out into the kitchen to fill a basket with provisions and send it somewhere; and when the Fire-Tender brought in a new forestick, Mandeville, who always wants to talk, and had been sitting drumming his feet and drawing deep sighs, attacked him.
Mandeville. Speaking about culture and manners, did you ever notice how extremes meet, and that the savage bears himself very much like the sort of cultured persons we were talking of last night?
The fire-tender. In what respect?
Mandeville. Well, you take the North American Indian. He is never interested in anything, never surprised at anything. He has by nature that calmness and indifference which your people of culture have acquired. If he should go into literature as a critic, he would scalp and tomahawk with the same emotionless composure, and he would do nothing else.
The fire-tender. Then you think the red man is a born gentleman of the highest breeding?
Mandeville. I think he is calm.
The fire-tender. How is it about the war-path and all that?
Mandeville. Oh, these studiously calm and cultured people may have malice underneath. It takes them to give the most effective “little digs;” they know how to stick in the pine-splinters and set fire to them.
Herbert. But there is more in Mandeville’s idea. You bring a red man into a picture-gallery, or a city full of fine architecture, or into a drawing-room crowded with objects of art and beauty, and he is apparently insensible to them all. Now I have seen country people, —and by country people I don’t mean people necessarily who live in the country, for everything is mixed in these days,—some of the best people in the world, intelligent, honest, sincere, who acted as the Indian would.
The mistress. Herbert, if I did n’t know you were cynical, I should say you were snobbish.
Herbert. Such people think it a point of breeding never to speak of anything in your house, nor to appear to notice it, however beautiful it may be; even to slyly glance around strains their notion of etiquette. They are like the countryman who confessed afterwards that he could hardly keep from laughing at one of Yankee Hill’s entertainments,
The young lady. Do you remember those English people at our house in Flushing last summer, who pleased us all so much with their apparent delight in everything that was artistic or tasteful, who explored the rooms and looked at everything, and were so interested? I suppose that Herbert’s country relations, many of whom live in the city, would have thought it very ill-bred.