It exerts a mysterious, smothering effect; and presently I, your faithful hater, your devoted Conscience, go sound asleep! Sound? It is no name for it. I couldn't hear it thunder at such a time. You have some few other vices--perhaps eighty, or maybe ninety--that affect me in much the same way."
"This is flattering; you must be asleep a good part of your time."
"Yes, of late years. I should be asleep all the time but for the help I get."
"Who helps you?"
"Other consciences. Whenever a person whose conscience I am acquainted with tries to plead with you about the vices you are callous to, I get my friend to give his client a pang concerning some villainy of his own, and that shuts off his meddling and starts him off to hunt personal consolation. My field of usefulness is about trimmed down to tramps, budding authoresses, and that line of goods now; but don't you worry --I'll harry you on theirs while they last! Just you put your trust in me."
"I think I can. But if you had only been good enough to mention these facts some thirty years ago, I should have turned my particular attention to sin, and I think that by this time I should not only have had you pretty permanently asleep on the entire list of human vices, but reduced to the size of a homeopathic pill, at that. That is about the style of conscience I am pining for. If I only had you shrunk you down to a homeopathic pill, and could get my hands on you, would I put you in a glass case for a keepsake? No, sir. I would give you to a yellow dog! That is where you ought to be--you and all your tribe. You are not fit to be in society, in my opinion. Now another question. Do you know a good many consciences in this section?"
"Plenty of them."
"I would give anything to see some of them! Could you bring them here? And would they be visible to me?"
"I suppose I ought to have known that without asking. But no matter, you can describe them. Tell me about my neighbor Thompson's conscience, please."
"Very well. I know him intimately; have known him many years. I knew him when he was eleven feet high and of a faultless figure. But he is very pasty and tough and misshapen now, and hardly ever interests himself about anything. As to his present size--well, he sleeps in a cigar-box."
"Likely enough. There are few smaller, meaner men in this region than Hugh Thompson. Do you know Robinson's conscience?"
"Yes. He is a shade under four and a half feet high; used to be a blond; is a brunette now, but still shapely and comely."
"Well, Robinson is a good fellow. Do you know Tom Smith's conscience?"
"I have known him from childhood. He was thirteen inches high, and rather sluggish, when he was two years old--as nearly all of us are at that age. He is thirty-seven feet high now, and the stateliest figure in America. His legs are still racked with growing-pains, but he has a good time, nevertheless. Never sleeps. He is the most active and energetic member of the New England Conscience Club; is president of it. Night and day you can find him pegging away at Smith, panting with his labor, sleeves rolled up, countenance all alive with enjoyment. He has got his victim splendidly dragooned now. He can make poor Smith imagine that the most innocent little thing he does is an odious sin; and then he sets to work and almost tortures the soul out of him about it."
"Smith is the noblest man in all this section, and the purest; and yet is always breaking his heart because he cannot be good! Only a conscience could find pleasure in heaping agony upon a spirit like that. Do you know my aunt Mary's conscience?"
"I have seen her at a distance, but am not acquainted with her. She lives in the open air altogether, because no door is large enough to admit her."
"I can believe that. Let me see. Do you know the conscience of that publisher who once stole some sketches of mine for a 'series' of his, and then left me to pay the law expenses I had to incur in order to choke him off?"