The fire-tender. I think the discussion has touched bottom.
I never felt so much the value of a house with a backlog in it as during the late spring; for its lateness was its main feature. Everybody was grumbling about it, as if it were something ordered from the tailor, and not ready on the day. Day after day it snowed, night after night it blew a gale from the northwest; the frost sunk deeper and deeper into the ground; there was a popular longing for spring that was almost a prayer; the weather bureau was active; Easter was set a week earlier than the year before, but nothing seemed to do any good. The robins sat under the evergreens, and piped in a disconsolate mood, and at last the bluejays came and scolded in the midst of the snow-storm, as they always do scold in any weather. The crocuses could n’t be coaxed to come up, even with a pickaxe. I’m almost ashamed now to recall what we said of the weather only I think that people are no more accountable for what they say of the weather than for their remarks when their corns are stepped on.
We agreed, however, that, but for disappointed expectations and the prospect of late lettuce and peas, we were gaining by the fire as much as we were losing by the frost. And the Mistress fell to chanting the comforts of modern civilization.
The fire-tender said he should like to know, by the way, if our civilization differed essentially from any other in anything but its comforts.
Herbert. We are no nearer religious unity.
The Parson. We have as much war as ever.
Mandeville. There was never such a social turmoil.
The young lady. The artistic part of our nature does not appear to have grown.
The fire-tender. We are quarreling as to whether we are in fact radically different from the brutes.
Herbert. Scarcely two people think alike about the proper kind of human government.
The Parson. Our poetry is made out of words, for the most part, and not drawn from the living sources.
Our next door. And Mr. Cumming is uncorking his seventh phial. I never felt before what barbarians we are.
The mistress. Yet you won’t deny that the life of the average man is safer and every way more comfortable than it was even a century ago.
The fire-tender. But what I want to know is, whether what we call our civilization has done any thing more for mankind at large than to increase the ease and pleasure of living? Science has multiplied wealth, and facilitated intercourse, and the result is refinement of manners and a diffusion of education and information. Are men and women essentially changed, however? I suppose the Parson would say we have lost faith, for one thing.