The Parson. That would be the most radical reform of the day. That would be independence. If people dressed according to their means, acted according to their convictions, and avowed their opinions, it would revolutionize society.
Our next door. I should like to walk into your church some Sunday and see the changes under such conditions.
The Parson. It might give you a novel sensation to walk in at any time. And I’m not sure but the church would suit your retrograde ideas. It’s so Gothic that a Christian of the Middle Ages, if he were alive, couldn’t see or hear in it.
Herbert. I don’t know whether these reformers who carry the world on their shoulders in such serious fashion, especially the little fussy fellows, who are themselves the standard of the regeneration they seek, are more ludicrous than pathetic.
The fire-tender. Pathetic, by all means. But I don’t know that they would be pathetic if they were not ludicrous. There are those reform singers who have been piping away so sweetly now for thirty years, with never any diminution of cheerful, patient enthusiasm; their hair growing longer and longer, their eyes brighter and brighter, and their faces, I do believe, sweeter and sweeter; singing always with the same constancy for the slave, for the drunkard, for the snufftaker, for the suffragist,—“There’sa-good-time-com-ing-boys (nothing offensive is intended by “boys,” it is put in for euphony, and sung pianissimo, not to offend the suffragists), it’s-almost-here.” And what a brightening up of their faces there is when they say, “it’s-al-most-here,” not doubting for a moment that “it’s” coming tomorrow; and the accompanying melodeon also wails its wheezy suggestion that “it’s-al-most-here,” that “good-time” (delayed so long, waiting perhaps for the invention of the melodeon) when we shall all sing and all play that cheerful instrument, and all vote, and none shall smoke, or drink, or eat meat, “boys.” I declare it almost makes me cry to hear them, so touching is their faith in the midst of a jeer-ing world.
Herbert. I suspect that no one can be a genuine reformer and not be ridiculous. I mean those who give themselves up to the unction of the reform.
The mistress. Does n’t that depend upon whether the reform is large or petty?
The fire-tender. I should say rather that the reforms attracted to them all the ridiculous people, who almost always manage to become the most conspicuous. I suppose that nobody dare write out all that was ludicrous in the great abolition movement. But it was not at all comical to those most zealous in it; they never could see—more’s the pity, for thereby they lose much—the humorous side of their performances, and that is why the pathos overcomes one’s sense of the absurdity of such people.